Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Facebook lists full of strangers

Etelei Kuata (centre) with Aggie Faifua and Miriama Afamasaga. Photo / Supplied
Etelei Kuata (centre) with Aggie Faifua and Miriama Afamasaga. Photo / Supplied

Kiwis are padding out their Facebook friends lists with people they have never met and acquaintances from school they haven't seen since leaving, a study claims.

The survey of 1000 New Zealanders found that 41 per cent had Facebook friends they had never met, while 67 per cent said their list included people they had not seen since leaving school.

The SayIt Online Omnibus survey, carried out by UMR Research last month, also showed that the average New Zealander had 146 Facebook friends, while those aged between 18 and 39 had an average of 234.

Social media commentator Simon Young said social networking sites - and particularly Facebook - were fast becoming the norm for Kiwis.

"It's becoming an assumption that you've got to be on it ... the fact that everyone else is on there, makes other people want to be on there.

"Most people are a little bit like me - fairly open - there's friends that you actually know, there's strangers and then acquaintances who are people who you haven't actually met but know a lot about through [what they've posted on] Facebook.

"Other people are just horrified at that and they just want people who they spend time with."

The survey claimed 76 per cent of New Zealanders were signed up to Facebook, although a Herald-Digipoll survey in September suggested the figure was nearer half of the population.

Other UMR results showed a third of users were friends with a former partner, a third were friends with at least one of their children and a similar proportion were friends with a parent. However, only 13 per cent of people said they were friends with their boss.

Mr Young said the idea of what qualifies as a "friend" on Facebook would vary from person to person.

Addicted but not sure why

Etelei Kuata admits she is addicted to Facebook, but is unsure what the attraction is.

"I put my life on there. I go on it when I wake up and before I go to sleep. I have a look at what other people have been up to that day and maybe say hello. It's just an easy way of connecting with people."

The 24-year-old has 401 friends made up of people she has known from primary school, high school, work, church and family.

There are people on her friends list who she hardly knows or has never even met in person.

"Sometimes I get random people adding me and I'll accept them. I might have only met them just the once but I'll add them."

Miss Kuata, a secretary assistant at the St Mary's Parish in Avondale, said she had deleted friends: "If they write stupid comments or swear or post rude status updates ... off they go."

Friends indeed:

* 146 average number of friends on Facebook.
* 67 per cent are friends with someone they haven't seen since school.
* 41 per cent are friends with strangers.
* 13 per cent are friends with a boss.

- NZ Herald

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